Kickoff Thursday, Sep 23rd 8:20pm Eastern

Panthers (
25.5) at

Texans (

Over/Under 43.0


Key Matchups
Panthers Run D
32nd DVOA/13th Yards allowed per carry
Texans Run O
30th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Panthers Pass D
20th DVOA/11th Yards allowed per pass
Texans Pass O
12th DVOA/5th Yards per pass
Texans Run D
2nd DVOA/2nd Yards allowed per carry
Panthers Run O
25th DVOA/23rd Yards per carry
Texans Pass D
23rd DVOA/22nd Yards allowed per pass
Panthers Pass O
32nd DVOA/32nd Yards per pass

Xandamere’s Showdown Slant

Week 3 is here and it starts with the Panthers visiting the woeful Texans. Houston, not content with already being the worst team in the league, has now absorbed injuries to its starting quarterback and two of its four wide receivers who were part of their Week 1 lineup. Good grief. This game has a total of just 43.5 right now, with the Panthers favored by 7.5 points, which is quite a line for a visiting team. The Texans are likely to struggle to hit their modest total in this one.

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On the Carolina side, we have Christian McCaffrey, our lord and savior returned after a lost season. CMC has seen a whopping 30 running back opportunities in each game so far, despite missing a few snaps in Week 2 due to leg cramps. This backfield is CMC’s as one of the few remaining true bell-cow running backs in the NFL, and he’s the clear favorite to be the top scorer in this game. The matchup is favorable, his team is a large favorite, his pass game role is elite, and he even kept playing late into a blowout against New Orleans last week. There’s absolutely nothing to point to anyone else having a high likelihood of outscoring CMC beyond “football is weird.” He’s the clear strongest play in the game, but he’s probably going to be something like 90% owned, and so there’s always a game theory case to be made for fading (or just being underweight the field) on any play at that level of ownership. Or, you could just lock him in 100% of your lineups and move on. Neither decision is “right,” this is a question of your style of play. Behind CMC, we have rookie Chuba Hubbard, who saw eight carries in Week 2 (a few when CMC took a leg cramp break and a few more at the end of the game). You’re basically hoping for a huge blowout or an injury to make him relevant, and he isn’t even priced at full-punt level. 

In the passing game, DJ Moore looks like the clear alpha of this offense so far with 19 targets, while no other non-CMC receiver has more than nine. As with CMC, we have an elite talent in a great situation with only game theory as a factor to consider as a negative. Robby Anderson is almost $3,000 cheaper, but with people wanting to play an extremely expensive CMC, Anderson might come in at similar ownership to Moore just because of salary and common roster construction. Watch ownership projections here. If Anderson looks significantly lower owned than Moore, he’s a great leverage option. But if ownership looks similar (or if Anderson is higher), I’d be tempted to go really heavy on Moore. Rookie (and preseason sensation) Terrance Marshall hasn’t had a big box score yet, but he’s established a solid role playing about half of the snaps, which I expect will increase throughout the season. At $4k, all Marshall has to do is outscore the kickers to be relevant. In this matchup, I like his odds of doing so. Behind that, it gets thin quickly as the Panthers are a highly concentrated offense. Brandon Zylstra caught a touchdown last week but is priced at $4,600, which is outrageous for a guy playing under 20% of the snaps. Alex Erickson will be on the field a tiny bit. At tight end, the Panthers primarily use Ian Thomas, who is really just a blocker who you’re hoping falls into a touchdown. Dan Arnold is the receiving tight end and a reasonable play, but similar to Zylstra, you’re paying $4,800 for a guy who might barely crack 50% of the snaps if he’s lucky. He’s probably the best fourth receiving option for the Panthers on this slate, but just be aware he’s highly volatile and will almost certainly need a touchdown to pay off. Tommy Tremble and Giovanni Ricci will be on the field as well at tight end. It’s worth noting that Tremble had a nice preseason as a receiver, and while he has yet to see a target in the NFL this season, his snap count increased from 19% to 38% from Week 1 to Week 2 (at the expense of Arnold, who fell from 52% to 29%), so he’s at least worth having in your MME punt pool. Unless you’re intentionally trying to get weird to lower duplication, though, the Carolina offense is basically CMC, Moore, Anderson, Marshall, and maybe a smidge of Arnold or Zylstra.

Showdown Ownership Projections!

Ownership updates automatically


On the Houston side, the backfield is a mess. Mark Ingram handled 26 carries in Week 1’s surprising win and then 14 more in Week 2. He can be viewed as the lead back, though in what looks like a poor game script, his workload is unlikely to be robust. At $6,600, he makes a nice value play if you’re building rosters that hypothesize Houston remaining competitive in this one, which would likely come via their defense overperforming rather than winning a shootout. David Johnson has seen seven and eight opportunities so far with a most passing game role giving him at least some semblance of floor. Phillip Lindsay has seen 13 carries and two targets but has two touchdowns (football is weird). Rex Burkhead has zero carries and two targets. The likeliest outcome is that none of these guys ends up in a winning Showdown lineup, but if you want to take some shots here, Ingram and Johnson are the best plays, with Lindsay and Burkhead falling down to the “a sprinkle in MME” range.

In the passing game, the Texans will be led by David Mills. Mills himself is a tough play as a shaky quarterback with no real rushing ability (that we’ve seen so far) going up against a solid defense, with a dubious cast of receivers around him. Yeesh. That said, quarterbacks bring some of the strongest floors of any position in Showdown, and Mills is about as cheap as we ever see QBs at $8,400. Mills’ receiving corps is basically Brandin Cooks and a pile of some random dudes. Cooks himself has seen massive volume with 14 targets last week and is the highest confidence play on the Texans. Volume alone should keep him relevant in this one. Past Cooks, it gets ugly fast. Chris Conley should be forced into a nearly full-time role with Nico Collins out and Danny Amendola almost certainly out, and brings some upside as a potential deep threat who can pay off his extremely modest salary on just a couple of plays. Conley is likely to be extremely popular, and despite being a good on-paper value play, he’s also going to be a volatile receiver on a bad offense. Personally, if his ownership gets out of hand (which feels likely on a slate with CMC as a captain option who people will want to pay up for), I’ll want to be underweight here. Assuming Amendola misses (he’s listed doubtful currently), Andre Roberts will see more work, and Anthony Miller will likely be active for the first time this season. The Texans have primarily been running 2-wide formations so far this season so the WR3 role is still likely to be a part-time one. I’ll include both in my MME player pool but I won’t feel great about it. At tight end, we have a nearly even timeshare between Pharaoh Brown and Jordan Akins, with both on the field together fairly regularly. Both have a floor of 0 and are only worth considering as punt tourney plays. This offense is VERY thin. Houston just sent their previous TE3, Antony Auclair, back to the practice squad so if they call someone else up before the game, you could stick that guy in your MME pool as well (if it’s someone who’s on the site you’re playing).


The way this game is likeliest to play out is the Panthers stomp all over the Texans. We need to talk about defense for a bit because I expect Carolina’s defense to come in quite highly owned. My position on defense in Showdown is that I always want about 10-12% of any DST so that I’m underweight the “good” ones and overweight the “bad” ones. Price and ownership are extremely poor predictors of DST success, and the field vastly overweights the probability of a good defense in a good matchup putting up a tourney-worthy score. It could happen here, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all, but my personal approach to Showdown is to always be underweight highly-owned defenses (and to try to make sure I am using them intelligently when I do use them, i.e. in 5-1 or 4-2 builds only). To quote from my Advanced Showdown course, “really good defenses in good matchups approach 50% ownership or higher in Showdown tournaments, while poor defenses are often under 10%. To me, that level of ownership doesn’t appropriately capture the variance of the position. There’s just no way I want much exposure to a defense if it’s going to be 50% owned.” Some other tributaries to consider:

  • Houston could actually win this game! As wild as it seems, the Vegas odds give the Texans about a 1 in 4 chance of winning. Do you think 25% of rosters will be built around the idea of Houston winning? I doubt it, which tells us we have a leverage opportunity to dedicate at least some of our exposure in this direction (either with “Houston wins” rosters or even just “Houston keeps it competitive before losing a close game”).
  • I expect we’ll see a lot of 5-1 and 4-2 Carolina stacks. I mean, duh. Obvious, right? And we’ll see a lot of those stacks built around expensive Panthers with cheap Houston bring-backs. This provides us with an opportunity to build rosters still predicated on Carolina winning, but constructed differently from how the field is likely to. For example, CMC captain with Darnold, but then use Arnold and Marshall as two other Carolina pieces instead of one of Moore or Anderson. This is a slate in which we can predict not just individual player ownership, but also a lot of overall roster construction, with a pretty high degree of accuracy, which lets us build in ways that maximize our exposure to the best plays while our constructions can differ from the field.
Cash games

My cash game pool consists of CMC, Darnold, Cooks, Mills (ugh), Marshall, the kickers, and Conley.


In tournaments, the obvious favorite captain is CMC, but I would bet that he pushes 40%+ captain ownership and around 90% overall ownership. Yikes. I also want to be heavy on Moore, Anderson, Marshall, and Cooks, with Conley (or other cheap Texans) as interesting punt captain choices.

Some groups to consider
  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain pass catchers with their QBs (or consider boosting the QB if using a captain receiver if you don’t want 100% exposure to this pairing – discussed in further detail in the 2020 update to my Advanced Showdowns course)
  • If using an RB captain, apply a negative correlation to the opposing defense and kicker (you can see how to do so in my FantasyLabs tutorial video)
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 pass catchers
  • If using Mark Ingram, boost the Texans DST
  • At most 1 Texans running back
  • At most 1 of the non-Cooks Houston wide receivers
  • If playing Carolina DST, at most 2 Texans

By LexMiraglia10 >>


  • HOU’s hot start with Tyrod took a hit with his injury, forcing rookie Davis Mills into action
  • HOU was outscored 17 to 7 after Tyrod left in first half
  • CAR is outscoring opponents (NYJ/NOR) 45-21 to start the season

Davis Mills:

  • Mills went 8/18 for 108 yds, TD, INT and an awful 10.0 QBR in forced action vs CLE
  • For context, Tyrod’s QBR was at 94.8 when he left the game
  • CAR has already picked of Wilson & Jameis three times, holding their offenses to a combined three TDs
  • CAR has 10 sacks through two games
  • Davis Mills best PlayerProfiler comparable is Landry Jones

Brandin Cooks:

  • Cooks as HOU’s #1 since 2020: 5:95 (8) // 5:65 (8) // 6:59 (7) // 7:141:1 (10) // 11:166:2 (16) // 5:132 (7) // 9:78:1 (14)
  • 10 of Cooks’s 14 targets from W1 came from Davis Mills in the second half
  • Cooks has 21 targets through 2 games (next closest on team is 6)
  • #1 WRs vs CAR through two games: Davis (5:97:2) // Callaway (2:8)
  • Since 2014, Home WRs averaging 7+ targets, on teams implied for under 19 pts, have failed to meet salary based expectations nearly 60% of the time
  • Only four of the 57 WRs in that sample reach 20 DK pts, and just one reached 25 DK pts


  • Ingram has rushed 26 & 14 times in the first two weeks of 2021
  • CAR has allowed a total of 57 rush yds to the NYJ & NOR RBs
  • DJ & Lindsay have each caught a TD in the first two weeks, but no one has topped 22 rec yds

Sam Darnold:

  • Darnold scored 20+ DK pts in just 8/38 games with NYJ (just one of 30+)
  • Darnold has scored 20.1 & 22.9 DK pts in his first two games for CAR
  • QBs vs HOU’s new Lovie Smith defense to start 2020: Lawrence (332:3:3) // Baker (213:1:1; rush TD)


  • Targets through 2 weeks: Moore (8, 11) // Robby (3, 6) // Marshall (6, 3)
  • HOU allowed 213 yds, 2 TD to JAC’s top 3 WRs, but held CLE’s in check (albeit on just 21 passes, 30 less than JAC threw)
  • HOU allowed the highest success rate to WRs in 2020, and Robey was traded to NOR
  • HOU has allowed the 8th most completed air yds & 7th most YAC through 2 games
  • Anderson has the highest avg intended air yds in the NFL through 2 games
  • CAR WRs only scored 20+ DK pts together twice in 2020 (RA & DJM vs TB // DJM & CS vs DET); none reached 20 in W1

Christian McCaffrey:

  • HOU allowed 300 more RB rush yds than the next closest team in 2020 (145.8/g)
  • HOU allowed over 3000 total RB yds in 2020 (190.9/g)
  • HOU is allowing 5.4 yds/att through 2 games vs Robinson/Hyde & Chubb/Hunt
  • Since Week 9 of 2018, CMC has scored under 24 DK pts just five times in 30 games
  • Two of those five came in W17 blowouts vs NOR in which multiple starters either didn’t play or finish game
  • CMC has 30+ pts in 16 of those 30 games and 35+ in 8 of them
  • CMC is second on the team in targets with 15 despite two games CAR led the entire way (30 att+tg in each game so far)

Dan Arnold:

  • HOU has allowed James O’Shag, Harrison Bryant, & Austin Hooper to each top 40 rec yds, and Chris Manhertz to score a TD
  • Arnold has 3 & 4 targets to start 2021, with 55 yds in the most recent game vs NOR
  • Arnold had five games of 40+ yds for ARI in 2020 with 4 TDs